'The potential for philanthropy in healthcare is huge'
Andrew Watt FInstF explains why the Institute of Fundraising is holding its first ever Fundraising in the Health Sector conference, where it will also launch the brand new healthcare special interest group.
Healthcare is changing. No matter where you are globally, costs are rising, government investment fails to keep up and political objectives trump public need at every turn. We can rail against the system – or we can accept that challenges breed creativity – that there has never been a time when funding health services and their delivery have needed more focus.
I’ve just returned from 13 years in the United States, latterly as CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. The common response to that here is “well, it’s all private there, isn’t it?”
True. Equally true is the fact that between 70 and 90% of earned revenue for hospitals in the US comes from federal funding, Medicare and Medicaid. It doesn’t look quite so irrelevant. And you don’t have to follow US news obsessively to know that funding for medical services is at high risk.
The next response is “well, they do philanthropy there.” Also true. But 10 years ago, not for health services. Another good statistic is that perhaps 2% of gross operating budgets in the US come from philanthropy. A drop in the bucket? Well, yes. And a bigger drop than we expect here. But look at the net. That often accounts for more than 50% of free revenue. At which point it becomes transformational.
So we all have a lot to consider. But the potential for philanthropy in healthcare is huge – whether you’re in a foundation supporting an NHS Trust, and Air Ambulance or a Hospice. Partly in funding things which make us exceptional; research, specialised care. Partly in building community engagement. Partly in communicating the extraordinary impact of the work we do.
'We need to stay ahead of the curve'
But to get there, we need to embrace opportunities, learn from experience and stay ahead of the curve. The UK is not a vast fundraising market, unlike the US. And it’s highly unlikely that any fundraising professional will have spent their entire career in healthcare – and highly likely that to move up through the profession, all of us will consider opportunities outside the field.
We’re lucky to have the specialised support of the Association of NHS Charities, the Hospices Association and the Association of Air Ambulances. In addition to the benefits of membership of those organisations, nearly 1,000 fundraisers in health services see the value of the clear fundraising focus of the Institute of Fundraising – and the access it provides to fundraisers from all walks of life, specialism and experience. Which is why the Institute felt the time had come to set up a special interest group for healthcare. Between the Institute, AFP and AHP, I’ve worked for the fundraising community for nearly 30 years. I know that the biggest asset of any association lies in its members, their passion, their support for each other and for their profession. So the new special interest group will provide a platform for that.
The first meeting will happen after the Fundraising in the Health Sector conference the IoF is hosting on Monday 20 May. The conference will have specialised break out sessions for Hospices, Air Ambulances and Hospital Charities – it will also have general sessions of relevance too all three – demonstrating the broad base that the Institute brings to this and all tables.
The special interest group meeting’s intended to allow people to sign up for the group, or express an interest in getting more involved by joining the committee. It will be informal (think private room in a nearby pub) and will be open to anyone. The only criteria to consider are that, if you want to join the committee, you need to be an IoF member.
Andrew Watt FInstF is Senior Principal at Accordant Philanthropy. He will be chair of the special interest group for healthcare, and will chair the Fundraising in the Health Sector conference.
The Fundraising in the Health Sector conference is taking place on Monday 20 May. Book a place or find more information here.